Linocut Artists Poorva Shingre And Samidha Gunjal | The Grey Alley

Linocut Artists Poorva Shingre And Samidha Gunjal Explore The Age-Old Printmaking Technique

Linocut Artists Poorva Shingre And Samidha Gunjal

Linocut is an ancient technique where a covering called linoleum is used to make designs. 

But how?

A design is cut into the linoleum surface with a knife, V-shaped chisel or gouge. After that, the linoleum sheet is inked with a roller (called a brayer) and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing is done by hand or with a printing press.

The linocut printing technique was used first by the artists of Die Brücke in Germany between 1905 and 1913. It was used for wallpaper printing. 

There are similar printmaking making techniques in India, like block printing. And they are mostly seen in saris and other Indian accessories. And like block printing, Linocut is currently picking up via contemporary artists who are displaying them in abstract bodies of work, accessories and more.

In that note, here are two self-taught Linocut artists, Poorva Shingre and Samidha Gunjal who tell us more about this unique, and tenacious printmaking technique.

Poorva Shingre: An Indian Linocut Artist with a tenacious vibe

Linocut artist Poorva Shingre

Crossing paths with Linocut

Yes, Poorva Shingre unravelled the true power of Linocut only after she got on to Instagram. But the idea and intrigue about ‘printing’ actually started in the creative hallways of JJ School of Arts, Mumbai.

As an applied arts student, she would always notice the student’s from the fine art department in awe. Among others, she always had her eyes peeled when they worked on different printing techniques.

Shingre secretively the art form but was too conscious to give it a try. Time passed and the current obsession took the back seat for a couple of years.

In love with lino

But things started falling into place once she enrolled herself in a woodcut workshop conducted by Jai Ranjeet. “I went for that because it was a similar printing method and exciting too.”

She had too much fun at the workshop. So much so that she could not sleep the entire night. It was like she was high—she could not stop thinking about the workshop.

“I could visualise myself carve the Lino, apply ink with the roller, it was a well-directed dream with slow motion sequences,” she enthuses with a giggle.

And we all know, when things started playing in ‘slow motion’ it’s true love!

Next morning Shingre was like a Quentin Tarantino film—gritty, creative and full of potential!

Lino cut stamp

But the point was “What would she create?” Just then, she struck gold.

“At that time, I was learning Spanish, and I love languages. So I pretty much combined these two,” recalls Shingre.

 She would take a Spanish word, illustrate it and then carve it out. In a way, she was practicing them both, she says. And that’s how she started her series on the Spanish stamp.

“What I loved about Linocut (when she started out) is the fact that it was 100% manual, no machines involved. The carving looked so much fun too. It felt like you have created something out of nothing. Like there are thin plain blocks/sheets, that you have given a shape, a story and identity,” reveals the Mumbai-based artist.”

The process to Lino

What’s your process like, your style? “About my style?” I guess it’s just the way I draw. So that’s something that comes subconsciously. The themes also depend on what I feel or am doing or going through at that moment, or someone who inspires me.”

“For instance, the Spanish series was because of the language. I made stamps inspired after seeing my friend and her cat’s Instagram stories.”

Smoking Ladies
Smoking Ladies

Similarly, her current series (Smoking Ladies) was something she drew a long, long time ago. It’s related to the notion that people think that she’s a pro at smoking. In reality, she doesn’t smoke at all.

Coming back, Shingre starts with a (rough) sketch of what she wants. Once she is happy with the outcome, she then draws or traces in on a Lino sheet and then carve it out.

“I like keeping the designs simple because that’s my drawing style and it’s easier to carve. I always remind myself to carve the text in reverse. A lot of times, I get carried away and carve the text seedha (straight), so when its stamped it becomes ulta, and it was to be done the other way round,” she adds with a roar!

Figuring things out the lino way

Since she has no formal training in Linocut she remembers watching a ton of videos on YouTube. She also connected with a few friends who did Linocut printing.

“I guess, it’s a bit easier if you have been drawing. Also, the first one will be pretty okay, and with practice you can do really,  really well. You just need to know how the tools work, get used to them and then use it in your own style.”

Linocut postcards

She started with stamp-sized blocks because one, she wanted to try out a smaller print before she could go ahead with a bigger one. Two, Lino sheets are expensive. Three, she did not have inks and started with ink pads, which are small, so I had to carve something that she could fit in the ink pad.

Shingre also feels that being an illustrator/graphic designer has helped you in your journey and that they feed of each other, as far as art is related.

She had already established her own voice and style when Linocut came along so what was remaining was mastering the technique.

The winding road to Linocut

You might look at her Linocut work now and think the craft is easy, but she like other artist had he set of challenges.

For instance, to pick up from where she left was a tough one. Hate’s a strong word, but in her words, she ‘hated what she did with the art form in the beginning, and she initially gave up.

Apart from that, trying to keep her fingers intact!

Linocut workshop

They were (still are) times when she endured such bad cuts that she was out of the carving game for two to three days. And she hates not being able to carve!

But, all that has taught her one thing—patience. It’s kind of a meditation on its own. And the fact that ‘Mehnat Ka Phal Meetha Hota Hai’.

The road ahead

Now, her Linocut work is showcased in postcard, t-shirts, and accessories. And the reason is a rational one.

Ever since she was little, she has always fantasised of making her own products. She would always make birthday gifts instead of buying them, even wrapping papers.

Once she started doing Lino stamps, the first thing she thought was, “Hey I can stamp these and make wrapping papers.” The others just followed.

Linocut No Nasties
Cat print Linocut design created for No Nasties

Linocut has also shown her a way in which she can re-live her love for workshops and her love for teaching (she used to be a dance instructor at Shiamak Davar’s Institute).

“I love to see the change in people, from when they walk into a class to when they walk out of a class. They should be glowing. What you teach should make them happy and progress someway in their own life (can be mentally, spiritually anything),” she enthuses.

“Also it helps improve my public speaking (laughs), and overcome the fear of talking in front of a group of random strangers.”

She just hopes to keep working hard, teach more and more people to make their own custom stamps. She wants to travel the country and then the world, doing her Linocut workshops.“I love carving and I hope to carve a big piece someday soon. I am also excited about my Smoking ladies postcards,” exeunt Shingre.

Speaking of workshops, Poorva is taking a Linocut workshop on 15th December (Saturday) at Todi Mill Social. To enroll for the workshop, get in touch with her on her Instagram page below. 

The most challenging Linocut design: Shingre was commissioned to make a Game Of Thrones Targaryen house Sigil stamp, the three-headed dragon and the size was 2×2 inches circle.

The future of Linocut in India? Well, it’s already been there in India for years and years and years, now it’s become more known because of Instagram and other forms of social media. It will soon become hipster and then become a trend. You just wait and watch (laughs).

For more Linocut, follow her here

Samidha Gunjal: An Indian Linocut artist with a vision 

Linocut artist Samidha Gunjal

Learning the Linocut language

Gunjal doesn’t remember exactly when she came across Linocut but someone suggested her that her illustration style is much similar to a Linocut print!

Since then she was curious about the medium. “I was very much inspired by looking at work by foreign artists and print-makers. But I could not find the linoleum sheet anywhere in India,” Gunjal points out.  

One fine day it just popped up in her feeds and she randomly ordered three sheets of linoleum.

Initially, she had tried to carve her first Lino block (almost 2 years ago) using wood carving tools. It’s when she realised that she has no appropriate tools for linocut. “I had to wait for a few more months till I found them online,” she recalls impatiently.

After she carved her second Lino block using Lino cutters, only then she decided to explore the medium by using some of her old illustrations.

Themes and inspirations

Her linocut work is mostly inspired by nature, animals, female body form and geometric patterns.

Since she is also a self-taught Linocut artist she doesn’t really follow any set process. She start with sketching on a Lino sheet, drawing mirror/horizontally flipped images.

She then plans out what part needs to be carved out to achieve the desired image in the final print.

“Everything has to be planned before carving as there is no undo button once you remove a chunk of Lino. It’s all about positive and negative space,” highlights Gunjal.

Linocut art

Once the carving is done, the block is then inked with a breyer or a stamp pad and hand pressed to take the impression on paper.

She also feels all her linocut prints are very much similar to her illustration style, but she wishes to develop it further.

As an aspiring linocut artist, she looks forward to exploring this technique and implementing it to create strong visual expressions.

“While working on my 1×1 inch drawing series many people asked me about making stamps out of it. And that fueled me with an idea of carving them in linoleum.”

Adding, “I flipped through my old sketchbooks looking for more illustrations that can be carved into linoleum. I started with basic shapes, fishes and simple illustration from my sketchbook. When I got hold of the tools I started carving more.”

Linocut gets a pop-culture avatar

After carving few initial blocks, Gunjal decided to try making prints on fabric. “I am obsessed with patterns and hand printed natural fabrics/clothes. Previously, I have illustrated patterns for children’s clothing brand and I always wanted to try fabric printing for myself,” she illustrates.

Linocut bags

“Now that I have blocks ready I tried printing on different surfaces including sketchbook,fabric, wood and more,” she states with a smile.

Her Etsy account is filled with products like printed scarfs, stoles, tote bags, sketchbooks. Even an art zine using Linocut printing. All the products are handmade and made out of 100 per cent cotton. The recycled paper and materials are sourced from local small-scale manufacturers.

Holding the line

“Linocut is an age-old art used for printmaking. It’s similar to woodcut but is softer than wood. It’s a tricky medium with no space for mistakes,” she highlights. Further, “You can see the final result only after printing and then you can’t really change much in the original block hence planning is crucial part of the process.

The carving and output vary between crude to fine cut detailed depending on acquired skill level but she thinks crudeness is the real beauty of the medium. Another big challenge is sourcing the material.

Compared to other drawing mediums even average quality linoleum sheet/ blocks, Lino cutting tools, inks and other printing tools are costlier.

Linocut print

“Personally I find this medium therapeutic and the printed output is most satisfying. I can create multiple copies of the artwork and each print is unique and original.”

Lino printing is a versatile technique which need to be explored again. Initially, when she started Linocut she did not know anyone from India using the medium. But now she is seeing more and more fellow artists keen to try this medium.

Gunjal is currently setting up a design studio in her hometown and aiming to have a small corner dedicated to just Linocut. She is also designing and making some essential tools for printmaking. “I really wish to use this to create limited edition hand-printed books and zines,” she ends with hope in her eyes.

A seamless Linocut design in the future: I eagerly wish to use this age-old printing technique to create/ illustrate children books and comic stories.

How much time does the creation process take?Lino carving needs lots of concentration and precision while working on it. Hence the time varies from few hours to days depending upon size and complexity of the design.

For more Linocut follow her here

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  • Show Comments (1)

  • Tarun Deep Girdher

    Nice to know young people are giving time to such analog methods of image making in the current times of digital dominance.
    Wishing them best
    Tarun

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